Cole Neighborhood Historic District
The Cole Neighborhood Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2013, The Gombach Group.
The Cole Neighborhood Historic District encompasses four square blocks along Vine and Race Streets, in the eastern portion of northeast Denver's Cole Neighborhood. Comprised of 71 primarily single-family houses, and 47 detached garages, or secondary buildings, the district is a visually cohesive collection of working-class homes. Almost exclusively of masonry construction, the district's houses feature uniform setbacks, and display the design and workmanship of the era. The neighborhood's quiet tree-lined streets, wide grass boulevards between the streets and sidewalks, and mature landscaping, also contribute to the historical character of the district. Taken together, these elements create a setting that conveys a strong sense of feeling and association with life in one of Denver's working-class neighborhoods during the early 20th Century.
Dominated by the construction of 1 and 1-1/2 story brick bungalows, all but a few of the district's houses were built during the 1910s and early 1920s. These houses, moreover, have been changed little from their original construction. As such, the district has retained a large measure of its historical integrity, and it clearly embodies the distinctive characteristics of the bungalow style of architecture.
In the Cole Neighborhood Historic District, several contractors were involved in building houses. J.M. White, who lived at 3241 High Street, was the neighborhood's most prolific builder. He built numerous homes in the general area, and was responsible for the construction of at least nine houses within the historic district. Houses attributable to White include: the Porter House at 3234 Vine, in 1913; the King House at 3238 Vine, in 1913; the Sandberg House at 3244 Vine, in 1914; the Bradford House at 3309 Vine, in 1910; the White House at 3339 Vine, in 1915; the Retallack House at 3361 Vine, in 1915; the Morford House at 3220 Race in 1915; the Bettes House at 3344 Race, in 1914; and the Hinman House at 3358 Race, in 1914.
Contractors Todd and Holmquist built neighboring houses at 3211 and 3217 Race in 1912. J.N. Westergreen, who was listed in Denver directories as a carpenter, built 3203 Vine in 1920, and then lived in the house for a time before selling it in about 1924. Earlier, in the 1910s, Westergreen lived at 2230 High Street. Within the Cole Neighborhood District, Westergreen was also responsible for building the Noren House at 3359 Race in 1915, and the Peterson House at 3260 Vine in 1923. Other builders active in the 1910s included Ellis and Marshall, who built 3222 Vine in 1912, and Bert E. Smith who built 3345 Race in 1919. A carpenter, Smith lived two blocks north at 3421 Race. He was also responsible for the construction of 3332 Race in 1922.
Located at 932 W. 7th, contractor E.J. Widmer built several Denver bungalows in the early 1920s, including at least two in the Cole Neighborhood Historic District. In 1921, Widmer built the Klopie House at 3318 Race, as well as the house next door at 3328 Race, which he also owned for a time. Other contractors who built area homes in the 1920s included Chris Kline, who constructed 3329 Race in 1922; C.P. Long, who in 1923 built 3344 and 3350 Vine; I.W. Garbe, who built 3214 Race in 1924; and William Pakiser who erected 3312 Race Street in 1923. Also in 1923 F. Oscar Swanson was responsible for the construction of 3327 and 3333 Vine.
These contractors were also responsible for building many of the Cole Neighborhood's garages during the 1910s and 1920s. These garages are generally small (several are barely long or wide enough to house a full-sized automobile), and nearly all are located along the alleys, in positions subordinate to their accompanying houses. Moreover, with just one exception, the garages are accessed either from the alley or from the side street, rather than from the front, as was characteristic of Denver's post World War II residential construction. The district's garages, thus, typify residential garage construction during the period when the automobile had established a dominance over horse drawn transportation, but before the automobile (and eventually the multi-car) lifestyle had fully reshaped residential neighborhoods.
At the same time that houses were being built in the Cole Neighborhood Historic District, Denver's Black population remained well to the west, in areas closer to the South Platte River. Largely due to discriminatory real estate practices and segregated housing laws, it was not until the 1930s that Blacks began to move into areas east of Downing Street. Discrimination aimed at keeping Blacks out of various neighborhoods was particularly virulent in the 1920s. The Ku Klux Klan was at its peak in the 1920s, and there were several racially-motivated incidents of violence aimed at Blacks and other ethnic groups.
By the 1940s, though, Blacks had begun to move eastward across York Street, and the area of the Cole Neighborhood Historic District gradually began to become a predominantly Black neighborhood. In the 1950s, White'families in the neighborhood still outnumbered Black families, but by the end of the 1960s, all but a small percentage of the white population had moved away. Today, the Cole Neighborhood Historic District is primarily home to elderly retired citizens (many of whom have lived in their homes for thirty to forty years), and to young working families with children. The district is also predominantly owner-occupied. In June 1994, according to City and County of Denver Assessor's records, only 16 of the district's 71 houses were maintained as rentals.
The significance of the Cole Neighborhood Historic District has been enhanced by the pride of ownership shown by the houses' past and current owners. From the blue-collar Europeans, who built and first lived here, to the Blacks that have had to fight for opportunities and battle against discrimination, the district has been home to many families from different cultural backgrounds.
† Carl McWilliams, Principal, Cultural Resource Historians, Cole Neighborhood Historic District, Denver County, CO, nomination document, 1994, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.